Gays are prejudiced against us, says Catholic cardinal
 

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posted Friday, February 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 07

Gays are prejudiced against us, says Catholic cardinal
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, accused LGBT rights activists of prejudice against the Catholic Church in a Valentine's Day statement to reporters.

George was responding to a protest outside Chicago's Holy Names Cathedral during services on Sunday, February 13.

Some 50 activists with signs and rainbow flags picketed the cathedral.

Chicago's Gay Liberation Network (GLN) organized the action to protest intervention by Catholic Church leaders to block Illinois's pending marriage equality bill.

George and other Catholic officials were also vocal opponents of the Illinois civil unions bill signed into law earlier this month by Governor Pat Quinn.

'No matter the issue, Catholics should be able to worship in peace, without fear of harassment,' George said in his statement. 'An open display of prejudice against the Catholic Church because of resentment of Church teachings prejudices civil discourse in our society.'

Contacted by SGN, GLN organizer Andy Thayer vigorously denied any anti-Catholic bias.

'This charge by George is nonsense,' Thayer told SGN. 'Like so many anti-Gay bigots, he is attempting to 'play the victim' by pretending that we are attempting to take away his rights, rather than the other way around.

'Last time I checked, no LGBT organizations were trying to pass laws forcing the Catholic Church to recognize same-sex marriages, but rather it was the Catholic leadership which was trying to impose its sectarian doctrine against same-sex marriage on all of society, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.'

Thayer added that most American Catholics actually support same-sex marriage even thought their bishops do not.

'Our beef is with the leadership of the Catholic Church, and not most lay Catholics,' Thayer said. 'Recent polls show that some 60% of Catholics support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, a majority of Catholics support a woman's right to choose abortion, and access to safe contraceptives. It's the Catholic leadership which is so backward and out of step with the majority of lay Catholics, and so we confine our protest to that leadership.'

While exact numbers vary, several major polls in the past year - including the Field Poll in California and a national poll by the Pew Research Center - have shown more Catholics favor marriage equality for same-sex couples than oppose it.

'GLN includes Catholics, ex-Catholics, atheists, and people of other faiths,' Thayer added.

'We do not ask people what religious affiliations they have, if any, in order to participate in any of our activities,' he told SGN. 'We value the right of people to make their own decisions about religious faith. What we oppose is the privileging of religious free speech over that of secular speech.'

Thayer also said the protest was a victory for First Amendment rights.

Because GLN has mounted similar protests at Holy Names in the past, Chicago police announced they would begin to enforce an ordinance 'prohibiting demonstrations in the public way within 150 feet and one half hour of a religious service in a place of worship.'

GLN and the ACLU challenged the ordinance, and secured a promise from the City's attorney that 'The City does not intend to enforce this aforementioned ordinance at this time.'

'[W]ith the able assistance of the ACLU, we are very proud to have effectively junked Chicago's unconstitutional ordinance 8-4-010(j), banning pickets such as ours on Sunday,' Thayer told SGN.

Thayer said his group does not have immediate plans to picket Cardinal George again, but added that 'Illinois has a marriage equality bill which is pending, and we are sure that Cardinal George will again work to defeat this bill if it comes close to passage, at which point he will make himself a very legitimate focus for continuing protests.'



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